Make dyslexia a national priority

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R- La.) has introduced a House Resolution on Dyslexia (H.Res. 456, 113th Congress), which, at long last, brings hope and recognition to the one out of five children who are dyslexic and who, with proper diagnosis and evidence-based interventions and accommodations, could learn to read, to spell and to achieve at their ability and go on to fulfilling futures.

At a time when 66 percent of our nation’s children are performing below proficient in reading, neither our children nor the nation can tolerate waiting any longer. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that dyslexia is a major factor in the achievement gap for African-American and Latino children, a gap that is associated with unemployment, lower earnings, and often, incarceration. Data indicate that at current rates this gap will take another 40 or so years to close, but it could be narrowed with proper diagnosis of dyslexia and instruction.

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Cassidy’s resolution recognizes each major element of dyslexia -- its high prevalence (1 in 5 people are dyslexic);  its cognitive and neurobiological bases; its unexpected nature; its persistence; and critically, its profound impact on education and the critical need for action by schools.

Rep. Cassidy’s resolution represents a giant step forward for everyone and anyone who cares about dyslexia — parents, teachers, dyslexic children and adults. Science has progressed in bringing understanding and clarity to dyslexia. This resolution now calls for educators and testing agencies to catch up and put this powerful knowledge to work so that affected children and their families -- and our entire nation -- may benefit.

As physician-scientists, we have seen the devastating impact on children and families resulting from the failure by our schools to recognize and address dyslexia; as scientists we know the powerful scientific knowledge that both explains dyslexia and offers an evidence-based route to remediation. Often we wish there were more knowledge to address a problem. In the case of dyslexia, we have the knowledge to do much better for our children and our nation and so rather than a knowledge gap, there is an action gap which H.R. 456 – by bringing science to education - takes a major step to close.

For too long, parents have had to endure watching their child struggle, often year after year, with every sign of dyslexia, with (if they could afford it) reports confirming the diagnosis, only to be denied recognition and services. Children confused, thinking they are not capable, lose self-esteem and give up on themselves and their futures.

Dyslexia profoundly impacts a child’s education and future. Dyslexia can be properly and successfully addressed by schools. There is no excuse not to. The alternative is to allow people to needlessly struggle throughout their lives believing they are not intelligent,  often giving up on themselves and being constrained to a life of failure and what might have been . As a nation we are too good to allow that to happen. Our children’s and our nation’s futures are at stake. Schools must take their heads out of the ground and look up — to science and morality — and move forward.

Cassidy gets it; the Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus that he co-founded was a major step forward and now the Dyslexia Resolution brings light and understanding -- and we hope action.  Our children and our nation deserve no less.

Every member of the House has thousands of constituents, young and old, who are dealing with the effects of dyslexia daily. As a society, there is a tremendous economic cost being borne each day because people with dyslexia are not reaching their capabilities. For these reasons, many already have and others should stand up and take the important step to support H. Res. 456 and help make dyslexia a national priority. 

Sally E. Shaywitz, the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at the Yale University School of Medicine, is the co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Bennett A. Shaywitz, the Charles and Helen Schwab Professor in Dyslexia and Learning Development, is the chief of Pediatric Neurology and co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity at the Yale University School of Medicine.